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'I would describe it as a sacred space’: Sadie Sinner on establishing The Cocoa Butter Club cabaret

We get to know the brains behind London's celebration of Black and brown cabaret artists

Written by Paula Akpan in partnership with Google
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Over the last four years, The Cocoa Butter Club has been coming up in London’s cabaret scene. Led by Sadie Sinner, the company celebrates performers of colour, many of whom are queer, from all walks (and struts and sashays) of life. Mixing spoken word, aerial displays and drag, its showcases serve as one big fabulous reminder that Black and brown cabaret artists not only exist but are here to stay – with flair.

How did The Cocoa Butter Club get started?

‘Back in 2016, I decided to put the wheels in motion because when I attended a Pride event that year, I saw that there were no Black lesbians booked on the cabaret stage. When I talked about it on online forums, the responses were “maybe there are no Black lesbians in cabaret” or “maybe there are none that are good enough performers to be on stage”. My response was, “obviously you haven’t seen me perform”. So I created a showcase to help talent scouts easily find us, but then it became clear that, actually, people who shared our identities wanted to see us perform too.’

What can we expect at one of your showcases?

‘There’s just always such beautiful energy, it’s palpable and you can feel it from both performers and the audiences. I would honestly describe it as a sacred space.’

How do you manage the business side of things?

‘It’s tricky sometimes finding the balance, especially because I’m also age-mates to most of the people in our company. It can be complex... making those tough business decisions. I’d say we’re doing an okay job though – many people assume that we’re a fully fledged company.’

How has the London cabaret scene changed over the last few years?

‘It’s very white, but at the same time it’s not, because all of these exciting initiatives and projects are popping up... London is really DIY, with people creating for themselves the spaces that are needed to champion and celebrate their communities.’

These are unusual times, so keep an eye on the Cocoa Butter Club website for information about upcoming shows when they're able to take the stage again.

Ashley Walters
Photograph: Udoma Janssen

Discover our Black LDN series

We’re all about championing the people, communities and businesses that make London such an incredible city. And that’s just one of the reasons why we’ve created this hub dedicated to some of the Black-owned businesses we love, in partnership with Google. Here you’ll find everything from profiles of business owners to a very cool interview with Ashley Walters – the guest editor of our latest mag, which is dedicated to Black-owned businesses. We think you’ll like it.

And remember: just because we may not be able to visit these businesses right now, there are still plenty of ways you can show your love. Click-and-collect, order takeaways, buy online and give them a Google review.

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